#19 - War Diaries
"Stark Invasion, Day Two, Part Two"
08:00 - Hank Pym
Hank Pym stared at his wife.
No. His ex-wife.
Things had been so strained between him and Janet Van Dyne in recent months, but that seemed to be forgotten now. They were both in the Stark Invasion Defense Force Command Post as leaders of the Avengers. They had silently agreed that their own personal problems were trivial when they had arrived. They had work to do. Their world and their teams needed them to work together. They did not have time for mind games and emotional baggage.
But even after all this time, he had to continue to remind himself that he and Janet were no longer married. Never more so now that he was married to someone else. Hank looked down at the wedding ring that Greer had given him. She was his wife now, and he genuinely loved her. But he realised now that he had never completely accepted his divorce from Janet. Part of him had always been waiting for their next reunion, no matter how badly they had ended their relationship time after time. He realised now that they would never be together again. And Jan would realise it too as soon as he told her about marrying Tigra.
Hank took a deep breath and slipped his wedding ring off. He had done the right thing marrying Greer. Things would be different with her. They would make it work. But he still deeply cared for Janet. There would be a proper time and place to tell her about Greer, and this was not it. Janet was one of the main coordinators of the counter-attack against the Stark. It would be selfish to distract her right now. Too many lives depended on her.
"Hank, you okay?" Janet asked him, noticing that he seemed on edge.
"I'm fine," he told her, putting the wedding ring into one of his trouser pockets, as he walked to where some of the finest scientific minds of his generation had assembled. Their numbers included Reed Richards, James Hudson, Walter Langowski, Henry McCoy, Walter Newell and the Black Panther. Mechanical experts like the mutants Forge and Box were standing by, ready to make their breakthroughs a reality in minutes. They had all gathered for one thing - to save their world.
"Okay," Hank told them. "We all know what we need to do. The Stark have declared war on the entire planet. Our friends and colleagues are risking their lives to stop them, but the collective skills and expertise of all assembled here are the best chance our world has at survival."
"Particularly with my assistance and supervision," a stranger announced from behind them.
All turned and were forced to restrain themselves from attacking once they saw who standing in their midst uninvited. Most of them had encountered him before and had silently thanked the heavens that they had survived. No one knew how he had arrived undetected but his ability to arrive unannounced was but the least surprising thing about him. He stood more disheveled than any had ever seen him before, but still radiated an intensity and a presumption of superiority that put them all at edge. No one among them had really thought he had died as reported when his country had been invaded during the first twenty four hours of the Invasion, but no one expected him to brazenly appear among them.
"Victor Von Doom offers his aid against our mutual enemy," Dr. Doom told the heroes. "You will all certainly agree that you have no option but to accept..."
11:00 - Chrome
People think strange things in times of stress.
As alien invaders tried to kill her in a world that was not even her own, Chrome had just one thought.
Who the hell was Brad Pitt?
There were posters every where around her as she fought outside a Cineplex in Los Angeles, all heralding the latest blockbuster from the apparently inimitable Brad Pitt. She had never heard of him.
Jenny Swenson came from an Earth that had been devastated by nuclear explosions and World War III, a world where all forms of weaponry had been destroyed by a "Star Child" and where radiation called Pitt Juice caused adults and children alike to develop superhuman powers like a super-human Chernobyl. She had spent ten years living in a deserted New York after her skin had been permanently converted to a silver metallic substance, teaching at a school for young paranormal children. Although her friend Charlotte had become a local celebrity in a paranormal version of this world's 'Friends', most of the world's movie business had moved to England and France. The number of American actors who had become super-stars since then could be numbered on the fingers of one hand.
"Do you have a god?" the Stark insisted, as she threw one against a movie poster for something called Troy.
"Yes - science!"
Brad Pitt... She rolled the name around in her head. He sounded like a god damn porn star...
13:30 - Living Lightning and Husk
Miguel Santos, the Living Lightning, was fighting the goddamn Borg.
Sure there were differences, but to a secret Trekkie like Miguel they were negligible. Their design was a lot cruder, and the races they had once been were far from the simple humanoids that Star Trek had always presented due to budgetary restraints, but he could not get the thoughts of the Borg out of his head as his electrical energy surged through the Stark troopers he was fighting on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The main difference to Miguel was that at least the Borg assimilated their victims and kept them alive. The Stark seemed to have no such redeeming feature.
"Do you have a god?" a particularly ugly looking alien with metal skin grafts angrily embedded in its skin asked. Miguel had no idea if it was male or female, or if such terms even applied to whatever species it descended from.
Miguel ignored its question. It was one he had asked himself the last time he had visited his devoutly Catholic mother when he had accompanied her to church and realised that he was only going for her benefit. He had sat through the mass ceremony, thinking that he doubted he would ever go again if not for her.
But he had a more pressing question now as he looked at the Stark. Without their crude technology, would these cyborg creatures even be alive.
And would he?
Miguel could convert his body into coherent electrical energy. In this form, he could fly at near-light speeds, could not be harmed by conventional methods, and could fire bolts of electricity. But the only reason he could resume a corporal form was due to a special suit which was designed for him by Doctor Demonicus and later modified by Doctor Pym. Pods located on the hips of the suit he constantly wore emitted a stasis field which kept him in human form before his electrical form dissipated.
Would he even truly be alive if not for it? Was he much more than a Stark with aspirations of independence? At least they had accepted their fate! Would he ever do the same?
He looked down to where a blonde woman made of stones was tearing some of the Stark to pieces. She was the newest Avenger, the former X-Man known as Husk. Miguel looked to where she was pointing to see a Stark ship approaching the Golden Gate Bridge, obviously reacting to reports of the Avengers resistance.
"I'm on it," he told Husk, as he flew away from the Bridge to intercept it, his own private fears temporarily put aside.
"Do you have a god?" the remaining Stark demanded of Husk as they attempted to subdue her.
"None of your business," she snapped back, ripping tubes away from the nearest Stark's neck and smashing her stone fist into its chest plate. If the X-Men could only see her now...
She fought on for five minutes, wincing as the Stark's weapons connected with her. She tried to ignore the alien energies being used against her as she continued to try to fight back, but one of the Stark managed to grab her neck with its iron grip as she was violently banging two of the Stark against each other. She tried to break free, but more of the Stark seized her limbs, holding her firmly.
To her dismay she began to lose consciousness as the stones around her neck began to chip away under the Stark's steel grip. She tried to shout out to Miguel, but he was too far above her in the air. There was no way he would hear her. Her thoughts began to drift as her grasp on the world faded as her body began to shutdown from a lack of oxygen.
Part of her wondered if her boyfriend knew that she loved him...
Part of her wondered if she would be choked to death, or if her neck would snap like the stone statue she was in this form...
Part of wondered why the Stark had stopped squeezing her neck until she realised that its entire body had become covered in ice. "Honestly, Paige. We let you out of our sight for a minute and look at the trouble you get into."
Husk managed to push herself away from the Stark and fell into the welcoming arms of Archangel.
"You okay, kid?"
"And some of the X-Men. We're scattered all over the globe, but this team was nearby during the first attack."
Husk looked up to see Polaris and Jean Grey using their magnetism and telekinesis respectively to lift the Stark into the Pacific Ocean while Iceman, her rescuer, began to freeze other soldiers. Karma was using her possession powers to try to reach the minds of the Stark, despite the fact that their minds had been largely replaced by CPUs. Havok used his cosmic powered plasma blasts to deal with any they were missing.
"Over there," Archangel directed Husk's gaze behind them, where the one X-Man she really wanted to see was using his powers to disrupt the electrical systems of some of the soldiers. She would recognise him any where. He was the newest X-Man, having worked with her brother Sam in X-Force. He was also her lover, Jesse Bedlam.
"Husk!" Lightning called out from the sky above, having noticed the new arrivals. "This the cavalry?"
Husk allowed herself to turn back into her human form as she kissed Jesse hungrily. "The only one I need," she replied.
16:00 - Mockingbird
It went against Valerie Kodiak's every instinct not to run to her daughter.
Every day, she found it difficult to be away from the child that none of her fellow Avengers even knew existed. Every day she had to remind herself that she was doing what had to be done for the welfare of her child and of every other child in her country. She was the current Mockingbird - one of SHIELD's premier active agents. She just hoped that someday her daughter would forgive her for the sacrifices she made for her good.
She looked at a photo of her daughter - six years old, so vulnerable yet so strong in her own innocent way. The wheelchair she had been in for most of her life was now practically a part of her, yet Jodie Kodiak was determined to some day be a ballet dancer. It broke what was left of Mockingbird's heart. She wanted to go to her and protect her during the invasion, but she had to trust that SHIELD were keeping her safe. Mockingbird was needed to help defend their world more than Valerie Kodiak was needed at home. Being a good parent meant doing what was best for one's child, even if it meant not being with her at a time like this.
She held up the gleaming black artificial hand that was grafted to her arm after the Anti-Vision had almost killed her. SHIELD had no idea what it was made of or what it was capable of. Neither did she, but right now she did not care. If it would help her be more effective than normal then she would take any advantage she could get at a time like this.
She left her temporary quarters in the Terran Defense Force Command Post and walked over to where Peter Wisdom was leaning against a wall, smoking calmly despite the frustration it was causing to some of the scientists around him. She and Wisdom had worked together before. He was a devious bastard, but she was glad they were on the same side.
"So what's the plan, Wisdom?" she asked.
"Pretty simple, Kodiak," Peter Wisdom told her casually, taking a drag from the cigarette. "Let's show these losers how to really fight a war."
18:00 - Tigra and Hercules
Tigra wondered if she was a shallow person. A few days ago, she had married Hank Pym during a weekend in Las Vegas. It was a move that had surprised them both by being completely unexpected but seeming so right. She had been with so many men since her first husband had been murdered and she had become Tigra, the premier warrior of a mystical race of Cat People. Her life had taken so many twists and turns that she had never expected to settle down with one man ever again. But then Hank and she had found themselves rekindling their old spark after she found and buried her mentor again, and they had grown closer and closer until she realised that she did not want any one else ever again. He was the one she wanted to be with for the rest of her life. Every thing would work out for them. She had no doubts of that. She should have no doubts of that, or she shouldn't have married him. Now, as she fought Stark troopers with Hercules in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, her only thoughts should have been of protecting their planet so she and Hank could live happily ever after.
So why was she so worried about Hank jetting off to work alongside his ex-wife for the duration of the Invasion?
She trusted him. He was the first man since her first husband that she had completely trusted. It was one of the reasons she had married him. It wasn't as if she had thought that Hank and the Wasp would never see each other again. They were colleagues, and they had a lot of history together. So much bloody history. As her claws ripped through the oxygen tubes attached to a Stark warrior that was getting too closer, Tigra admitted to herself that she would have liked Hank and her to have developed a bit more history of their own before dealing with Janet again. She wondered how shallow did that make her, to be worried about something so trivial at a time like this.
She looked around her at the area of San Francisco that most evoked images of the long-gone '60s hippie culture. Fragments of that flower-power, incense-burning, acid-dropping, tie-dye-wearing, peace-and-love-vibing era could still be seen around the Haight, but exclusive boutiques, high-end vintage-clothing shops, second-hand stores, Internet cafés and hip restaurants had all since settled in. She had always liked this part of the city. It had a nice rolled-out-of-bed vibe during the day that made it perfect for lazing around in cafés and bookstores despite the panhandlers and tourists, but it had plenty of bars and clubs for the night time. Neo-punks, club kids, fashion slaves, tourists and neighborhood folks all peacefully co-existed, making it the ideal place for a woman of two worlds like herself to relax. She hated the Stark for almost destroying it.
She heard gun-shots at the corner of Haight & Ashbury and ran on all fours to see an old woman with a shot-gun firing at an almost bemused but still advancing Stark soldier.
"Get out of my city!" The old woman told the Stark, firing the shotgun straight at the Stark's chest repeatedly. The Stark staggered from the bullet's impact but kept advancing, but the woman kept firing at it from point blank range, despite the force of the shotgun causing her to stagger. For a moment Tigra thought that she would not be able to reach them in time, but the Stark shuddered and fell barely inches from the woman.
"Oh my..." the woman muttered, before dropping the shotgun to the ground.
"Hey, it's okay..." Tigra reassured her, cautiously reaching out to the woman while making sure the Stark would not be getting back to its feet. "I'm an Avenger. Leave this to the professionals. Let's get you to safety."
"I... I came to this city when I was totally alone and confused, and found my home. I want to do my bit to defend it. I fought in Vietnam, you know."
"Of course you did," Tigra smiled. "But you can help more if you let me take you to one of the refuges where other people aren't as strong as you. Would that be okay?"
The woman paused for a moment, and then nodded. "I'm Anna. Anna Madrigal. What's your name, honey? Your real name?"
"Greer," Tigra smiled. "My name is Greer Pym."
"That's a pretty name, dear. But who will look after the city if you're taking care of an old fool like me?"
"You're not an old fool. And don't worry about the city. It's in good hands..."
A few blocks away, an enraged Hercules showed the Stark why they should believe in gods. Let his fellow Olympians huddle in Olympus, or protect only their old decaying shrines in Greece. Hercules lived in the here and now, and would live or die fighting as befitted a Prince of Power.
"You think that Gods do not exist?" Hercules bellowed, hurling his Golden Mace into the gathered Stark troops. "Tell that to my fist!"
20:00 - Firebird and Wonder Man
Firebird flew through the air, leaving a trail of flame behind her that could be seen for miles. To Simon Williams it appeared that she was flying to their destination as though her life depended on it. He did not realize that it was her family's lives that could be at stake.
"Bonita, you need to slow down," the man who might have once been her ally told her. In truth, none of the Avengers bar Tigra were certain if he was the Simon Williams who had fought and died with them, but the sporadic memories he had were no longer important. They were at war. Whether he was their Simon Williams or not was irrelevant. He was a Wonder Man, and his strength was needed.
"Blessed Virgin," Firebird whispered, as they finally approached Albuquerque, New Mexico and could see the smoke coming from it long behind the city itself was in sight. "They're destroying everything."
Wonder Man could say nothing. The devastation froze his soul, being the closest thing he had ever seen to the devastation of Hala after the Supreme Intelligence had detonated a nega-bomb on its own people years ago. They had been warned of what to expect when the Wasp had contacted their team and told them that the city was coming under exceptional attack and had no super-human defenders. Firebird had immediately volunteered - no, insisted - that she be sent there. Her reasons were simple. It was her home.
The aliens were wandering the streets, seemingly on automatic pilot. They had arrived five hours ago, and they no longer had any one to fight. When something moved, they simply killed it as though it was vermin. The Stark that had been sent here were primarily some type of foot soldiers, but there seemed to be thousands of them to Firebird. How could the Avengers not have known, she wondered as her mind tried to comprehend the horrors in front of her. They had been warned. They should have been prepared. How could they have not known there would be so many of them!
Ignoring Wonder Man's warnings, she flew to Old Town Plaza, the serene village that has been the focal point of her people's community since her great grandparents had arrived in the United States almost one hundred years ago. The quiet hidden patios, winding brick paths, gardens and balconies that she had spent her childhood exploring were in ruins. The Stark had been ruthless. And she knew why.
"Do you have a God?" one asked her as she landed in front of the San Felipe de Neri Church where she had prayed all of her life.
"Prepare to meet him," she replied, sending flame at the alien that caused it to shriek in the closest to emotion that it had experienced in years. She had always secretly prided herself on her apparent inability to cause harm to others, but she was only human, and these... heathens had systematically annihilated every thing she loved simply because of their own lost beliefs.
"Bonita?" Simon asked, attacking the Stark that were gathering around the two Avengers.
She ignored him, and slowly walked up the steps to the church, her corona of fire effortlessly deflecting the destructive energies the Stark attempted to attack her with.
She blessed herself and walked through the church doors, preparing herself for what she was to see but knowing there was no real way that any preparation would suffice.
They were all there, just as she had known they would be. Her eyes scanned the church and found the faces that she knew she would see.
Her brothers and sister and their spouses.
Her three nieces.
And the Stark, calmly inspecting the corpses of their fresh kills. The Stark had obviously discovered that this church had become a refuge for those unable to escape the city once the slaughter had begun. The Stark had killed them all, for daring to believe in a deity all-powerful.
She slowly walked up the main aisle of the church towards the altar, where the body of her one nephew was lying against one of her dead brothers as still as though he were a disposable toy no longer needed. Part of her wondered why she was not crying, but she was too in shock to realize that her tears were being evaporated by the aura of flames that surrounded her, growing larger and larger until the wooden pews on each side of her began to catch fire to the bewilderment of the Stark present. They continued to attack her, but none of their weapons had any effect on the woman that some had whispered was immortal. She paused at the altar and genuflected in front of the status of the crucified Christ hanging above it, ignoring the Stark as they futilely increased the strength of their attack.
"Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do," she prayed, placing her hands together.
"Do you have a God?" one Stark repeated.
She closed her eyes for a moment, as though the burden she had just been given was far too heavy for her to carry, and then slowly turned to the murderer of her family and community.
Outside the church, Wonder Man finally hurled two of the Stark that were attempting to subdue him into the other Stark that he had not yet disabled, and ran towards the door. Firebird had been inside for two minutes, and he had heard the sound of the Stark weaponry being fired. "Bonita? You okay?"
As he opened the door, a sea of flames rushed out towards him as the Church was engulfed by an inferno of Firebird's vengeance.
23:30 - Hank Pym
An explosion threw the Wasp into Hank's arms as they were both flung to the ground. They lay their for a second, Janet smiling despite herself at how nervous Hank looked as their faces were merely inches from each other. She had been too hard on him the last time they had fought. Maybe she should make it up to him if they got through this in one piece. There was nothing like an invasion to make you realise how trivial your problems really were.
"We're under attack," Mockingbird told them, running into the main conference room where the two Avengers team leaders had gathered to compare reports. Hank just wanted to be back in the lab helping the others, but he could not ignore his other responsibilities.
"Then the Stark have found us," Hank noted, as he helped Janet to her feet.
"Thanks, Pym," Pete Wisdom rolled his eyes as he walked into the room. "I didn't realise your genius I.Q. peaked at stating the bleeding obvious."
Hank ignored him and spoke to the intercom to the laboratories he had just left. "Reed, any progress?"
"Slow, but we're getting there," the leader of the Fantastic Four told his colleague. "We're going to need a few more hours."
"Hours we don't have," Hank told Wisdom, Mockingbird and the Wasp. "How long do we have until the Stark breach our defences?"
"Two hours tops," Mockingbird told him.
"Two hours... Two hours to develop a virus that could cripple an entire race, or our world will be overrun."
"There may be another option, friend Henry" the Black Panther observed, walking into the Command Post.
As King T'Challa proposed his plan, Hank took a moment to reflect on the decisions they had made this day. It had all seemed so necessary this morning, but now he couldn't help doubting himself. Was this virus the best way to fight back? Were they wasting valuable time and resources that could be better spent? And even if they created the virus successfully, they had no real way of knowing if it would even work, or if it would have affects beyond their nightmares. If Ultron had taught him nothing else, it had taught him that science could not be predicted.
Would he be remembered as a man who had helped save his world, or as a man who had committed genocide against the Stark?
Next: The Avengers take the fight to the Stark on Day Five of the Invasion. Not all will survive...
Two e-mails this time. The first is from Jason Trenner:
Interesting issue. I really liked seeing Oort the Living Comet, now for him to gather his Solar Squad for the next fight.
Glad you liked him. I enjoyed trying to make him a credible treat. If enough people are interested, then I might bring him back some day.
Anyway on to the questions
1) Will Jubilee and her "team" aka the Defenders will show up in the Stark invasion?
You'll have to ask Bill K'Tepi.
2) When will someone find out about the new(old?) Scourge?
3) Is there any chance of Free Spirit joining the team?
Didn't Gary Dreslinksi... sorry, Doctor Doom... blow her up in an issue of Captain America? Vagabond was seen visiting her grave.
4) Is there any chance of Ultra Girl joining the team?
No. I've no interest in the character, and I don't see what she would add to the team that Paige doesn't.
5) Is there any chance of Sunspot joining the team?
No. He's still with the Hellfire Club according to his cameo in the Stark Invasion special.
6) Is there any chance of the Blue Shield joining the team?
7)Will Wonder Man's return tie into the Wonder Man LS in Other Worlds?
No plans at the moment.
So you follow up an insane arc with two down temp stories that really
solidify this team... Husk's addition, while a shock, makes total sense
after reading this ish... also loved how you told the story of this
issue, good use of a theme there... onto complaints, which is basically
DAMN YOU FOR ENDING THAT WAY!!!!
That is all :)
Complaints like that I can live with. Thanks!